In building a successful blog, it’s not a joke when we say content is everything. This cannot be stressed enough. The key to having success as a blogger is putting out high-quality content consistently. The idea is simple: the more valuable content you post, the more opportunities you’re going to have to connect with people, grow your audience, and build a profitable business. That’s why an endless supply of ideas for content creation is critical.
To publish good content, the first step is to come up with good ideas. This is what we are going to talk about today. This post is going to cover a variety of strategies and tools to help you find ideas and inspiration for your next piece of content.
The Importance of Content Consumption
As a content creator, one of the best things you can do is to make it a habit to consume content, lots of it. And it doesn’t matter what kind of medium you choose – books, social media, newspaper, journal, etc. Renowned author Stephen King has a great book called On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft. In it, he discusses how important it is for aspiring writers to dedicate time to reading.
The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. – Stephen King, On Writing
Content consumption is great for forming and creating ideas. There’s really no such thing as an “original idea”. This is going to be kind of weird to hear but it’s true. The “new ideas” we call are simply combinations of existing elements. When you get yourself immersed into those existing elements, you get to let your creative juices flowing and encourage the ideation process.
In the habit of consuming content, I don’t only mean that you consume content that’s relevant to your niche. Aside from the blogs in your space, you definitely should be also reading books, science, poetry, history, and even social media posts. You’d be surprised at how two seemingly unrelated topics and concepts can suddenly click and form a great idea, and this often happens when you least expect it.
There’s a concept known as unconscious creativity. This is when you’re working on a problem and then you stop it to do something else. Your unconscious mind keeps working in the background until suddenly, you have that light-bulb moment in the shower, your car, or wherever you are when you’re not actively trying to come up with ideas. So, make it a habit to consume lots of content and immerse yourself in all those existing elements, then step back and let unconscious creativity work its magic.
Unconscious creativity can play a big role in the ideation process, but the truth is, you’re not going to always have an epiphany. Most of the time, you will need to be actively extracting those ideas from your brain, and one way to do it is to do a Brain Dump.
The Brain Dump
Here’s how to effectively use the Brain Dump:
- Set a timer for 3-5 minutes to create a sense of urgency
- Start jotting down content ideas as quickly as possible
- Use any writing materials you are comfortable using: notepads, sticky notes, notebook, etc.
- Write down all your thoughts and ideas without filtering them
A brain dump is all about quantity, not quality. Don’t worry if your ideas are bad or good. Get all of those ideas out of your head and into the paper, and worry about refining them later. When the time is up, sort through the ideas you’ve jotted down and decide which ones are the best. Look for emerging patterns or combinations that could work. You may find more ideas come to you during this process so be sure to record them as well. You should have a solid list of ideas that can fit into your content strategy at the end of the process.
Tools for Content Research
A favorite tool for content creators to generate ideas and inspiration for new content is a tool called Buzzsumo. This service allows you to see the most popular content on any topic or from any competitor based on social shared and backlinks. Just go to the website, enter up a topic related to your industry, and you’ll get a list of popular headlines from all around the web. You can click each link to open up the original post and be ready to get some ideas.
There’s also a wealth of data on the results page itself. Under each post title, you’ll see the author and the source. On the right side, there’s an overview of the number of times the post was shared on each of the major platforms. You can filter the results by content, type, country, language, country, word count, and specific domains.
Buzzsumo is a great tool to use to understand the mindset of your target audience and see what types of content they’re consuming. It’s also an opportunity to see where your competitors may be lacking, for example, topics they’re not covering or areas where you may be able to create something better.
Another favorite site is Quora. It’s a Q and A service where people ask and answer questions on thousands of different topics. Unlike the disaster that was Yahoo Answers, Quora has built an incredible community where you have absolutely everyone, from car mechanics to astrophysicists, answering questions about their expertise. If you consider yourself a curious person, this platform is a joy to use.
With these in mind, Quora can be an asset for your content creation efforts as it allows you to see what questions people are asking about your industry.
Go to Quora, enter a topic, and browse the popular questions and answers about that topic. If you click topic FAQ, you’ll have a curated list of the most common questions people have on that topic. You can also browse topics and do the same with each of those. Aside from knowing your audience better, you can also use core questions as a direct starting point for new content. If a lot of people are asking a particular question and you have the expertise to provide a helpful answer. That there is your new piece of content!
Another way of finding inspiration and ideas is by exploring the places where your potential audience hangout online – groups and communities. Reddit is a great example of this. Reddit is a message board website divided into various boards or communities called Subreddit. These subreddits are each focused on a particular topic. This site is huge, and there’s a subreddit for just about any topic you could think of. If there are at least 4 people interested in a certain topic, there’s probably a subreddit for it.
Take a look around and see if you could find a couple of active subreddits that are relevant to your audience. Browse through the top posts and change the sorting into all-time for best results. Look at the links that people are sharing, read the text posts, and pay attention to any recurring questions or themes and consider how these might help you create your content strategy.
Other Groups and Communities
You can also look into Facebook and Linkedin groups which are becoming more relevant in the age of social media. Public groups are searchable so find some relevant groups and do the same thing. Watch for any recurring questions and conversation topics and you should come away with some solid content ideas straight from the people you hope to serve.
Blogs and Publications
Finally, follow the major blogs and publications in your industry, as well as your competitors. Read their content and pay attention to what people are saying. Read the comments section and see how people are responding to certain topics. What questions or problems are they facing? How can you be a part of the solutions? The goal, after all, is to provide value in solving people’s problems.
Also, monitor your own comments and social media interactions. Look for repeating questions and other trends that you could potentially use for future content. You can also ask your audience what they want from you by prompting them to leave a comment or having them fill out a survey or even interviewing readers one on one.
Nobody knows your audience better than your audience. Ask them about their problems, their struggles, and their questions. You can even ask them about their reading habits if you want to get a closer look into their mind and understand what types of content they like to consume.
Your past contents are also something you can learn from. Take your most successful content and build on it with supplemental material. The content that didn’t do so well can be your learning experience.
Monitor your analytics. Not just the traffic, but also the demographics of your audience and the keywords people are using to find your site. Be careful not to overlook your existing audience in your existing content when it comes to content creation and generating new ideas.